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"I'm a farm boy. It's very interesting; you can detect self-starting characteristics in this society and they are strongest among people who have had some kind of rural upbringing and a very impressionable stage."
- Frank Herbert

Torch  
  The orifice from which issued the reaction mass of an atomic powered space craft.  

The Mayflower was shaped like a ball with a cone on one side—top shaped. The point of the cone was her jet—although Chief Engineer Ortega, who showed us around, called it her "torch."

If you count the torch end as her stern, then the round end, her bow, was where the control room was located... The torch and the whole power plant space were cut off from the rest of the ship by a radiation shield that ran right through the ship.

From Farmer in the Sky, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Scribners in 1950
Additional resources -

As far as I know, the first use of the word "torchship" occurred several years later, in Heinlein's 1953 story Sky Lift (see the entry for torchship).

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